Does the Universe Have a Purpose? I’m not
sure. Anyone who expresses a more definitive response
to the question is claiming access to knowledge not based on empirical foundations. This remarkably
persistent way of thinking, common to most religions and some branches of philosophy,
has failed badly in past efforts to understand, and thereby predict the operations of the
universe and our place within it. To assert that the universe has a purpose
implies a desired outcome. But who would do the desiring? And what would a desired outcome
be? That carbon-based life is inevitable? Or that sentient primates are life’s neurological
pinnacle? Of course humans were not around to ask these questions for 99.9999% of cosmic
history. So if the purpose of the universe was to create humans then the cosmos was embarrassingly
inefficient about it. And if a further purpose of the universe was
to create a fertile cradle for life, then our cosmic environment has got an odd way
of showing it. Life on Earth, during more than 3.5 billion years of existence, has been
persistently assaulted by natural sources of mayhem, death, and destruction. Ecological
devastation exacted by volcanoes, climate change, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, and
especially killer asteroids have left extinct 99.9% of all species that have ever lived
here. How about human life itself? If you are religious,
you might declare that the purpose of life is to serve God. But if you’re one of the
100 billion bacteria living and working in a single centimeter of your lower intestine,
you might instead say that the purpose of human life is to provide you with a dark,
but idyllic, anaerobic habitat of fecal matter. So in the absence of human hubris, the universe
looks more and more random. Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest
are as numerous as other events that would just as soon kill us, then intent is hard,
if not impossible, to assert. So while I cannot claim to know for sure whether or not the
universe has a purpose, the case against it is strong, and visible to anyone who sees
the universe as it is rather than as they wish it to be. I’m Neil deGrasse Tyson. I was asked by The Templeton Foundation to
respond to a question: Does the Universe Have a Purpose?

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